Social Venture Challenges

Join us in solving the world’s most pressing social problems!

Photo by Annie Spratt

Social problems exist locally and globally. The best way to participate in solving social problems is by understanding them deeply enough that you can understand the context in which they happen, the various factors that contribute to the problem, the consequences of the problem, and the organizations and best practices that exist to solve the problem. The Social Venture Challenge mentors students as they create a socially-minded start-up in response to these problems.

The Social Venture Challenge attracts students from all majors, backgrounds, and career paths to come together to explore and implement solutions to some of the world’s most pressing social issues. Teams may select one of the pre-established emphases listed below or target an emphasis of their choice. During the beginning stages, student teams work with the Social Venture Challenge coordinators to correctly target the problem, test multiple solutions, and validate their venture. Students who demonstrate that they have successfully targeted a social issue and a viable solution may pitch their venture to a panel of Ballard Center judges for a $2,000 grant. If students qualify for funding they will then graduate from the Social Venture Challenge and move into the Social Venture Academy where they will receive guidance in further developing their venture in order to earn up to $22,000 of additional funding.

View our growing list of challenge emphases in the following tabs.


According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 810 women died every day in 2017 while pregnant or during childbirth due to preventable causes. Ninety-four percent of these deaths occur in developing countries. Improved care before, during, and after childbirth can increase the likelihood of successful deliveries; however women in low-income areas often lack access to health care and receive inadequate services that fail to prevent severe bleeding, high blood pressure, infections, and preeclampsia.

The reasons for lack of treatment and causes of death vary from country to country and from clinic to clinic. We want you to improve maternal healthcare by implementing a solution to one of the issues specified below. 

Maternal mortality is highest among women living in rural areas and poorer communities in developing countries. More than half of these deaths occur in Sub-Saharan Africa and close to one third in South Asia.

Young adolescent girls are at the highest risk, with complications in pregnancy and birthing as one of the leading causes of their deaths in developing countries. Most of these complications are preventable or treatable and could be avoided in more developed settings. Severe bleeding post-childbirth, infections, high blood pressure during pregnancy (pre-eclampsia and eclampsia), complications from delivery, and unsafe abortions account for 75 percent of all deaths.

In the world’s sixty poorest countries, 214 million women want to use contraceptives and can’t get them. The use of contraception empowers women to control their life plans. Without contraception, women get pregnant too early and too frequently for their bodies to stay healthy.

When women can plan their births their babies are twice as more likely to survive their first year and 35 percent more likely to reach the age of five. Mothers are more inclined to get an education, earn an income, and raise healthy families. Family planning reduces abortion rates, reduces maternal and newborn death, and can prevent the spread of HIV and other STDS.

The newborn death rate could be cut in half if mothers followed simple practices such as exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of their baby’s life. Some of the benefits include a lower risk of gastrointestinal infection and infection from contaminated liquids for the infant, plus healthier growth rates. Breastfed children are six times more likely to survive than those who are not breastfed; however, only 36 percent of infants are exclusively breastfed worldwide.

In developing countries, the lack of exclusive breastfeeding and negligence of breastfeeding initiation within the first hour make up 800,000 deaths of children under five every year. 

The most common factor among maternal/newborn death is an absence of skilled health providers. Forty million women every year give birth unattended. Researchers have found that the best way to aid these mothers is in better training and employing community health workers. These individuals are trained on basic concepts to keep expecting women and new mothers and their babies healthy; however, these basic concepts are only effective if the community health workers can maintain regular visits to their assigned women. 

There are many specific issues within the realm of maternal/newborn health that a strong social venture could be built around. We have only chosen a few of the main issues to highlight here. You are welcome to pick an issue related to maternal/newborn health and target a specific problem within this topic, test multiple solutions, and create a sustainable social venture model.

 “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” — Emma Lazarus

A refugee is a person who has fled their own country because they are at risk of serious human rights violations and persecution. Though there is no universally accepted definition of a migrant, we see that some migrants leave their country seeking work, educational opportunities, and family. Others leave due to poverty, political unrest, gang violence, natural disasters, and other serious circumstances. Therefore, all refugees are migrants but not all migrants are necessarily refugees.

According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), there are an estimated 70.8 million refugees in the world. In total, one in seven people in the world are migrants. They come from every continent and every circumstance. Whether they be Venezuelan refugees in Honduras, Afghan migrants in the United States, Liberian refugees in Côte d’Ivoire, or Syrian refugees in Greece, we want to empower you to improve their quality of life through implementing a solution to one of the issues specified below.

Refugee and migrant needs are as diverse as their backgrounds. However, one common need they all share is dignity and empowerment. This can be achieved for most refugees and migrants in any country or situation is by providing them with employment and vocational training opportunities.  According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, “After fleeing war or persecution, the opportunity to work and earn a living is one of the most effective ways people can rebuild their lives with dignity and in peace.”

There are many specific issues within the realm of refugee and migrant issues that a strong social venture could be built around. We have only chosen a few of the main issues to highlight here. You are welcome to pick an issue related to refugee/migrant empowerment and target a specific problem within this topic, test multiple solutions, and create a sustainable social venture model.

 In February 2018, the World Health Organization reported that more than 800 women die worldwide every day due to preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth. Students who participate in the Social Venture Maternal Health Challenge propose technology-related solutions to lower the mortality rate for pregnant mothers.

I was left on a doorstep outside an orphanage in Hefei, China. My village was infested with pollution, disease, and overpopulation, so my birth mother left me hoping that someone could provide what she could not.

Even lifting the spatula to fry a chicken patty started to feel heavy. After returning from my mission, I struggled to find meaning in my Chik-Fil-A job. Five hours after handing in my apron and black hat, I found an opportunity that would change my life and thousands of others.

After nearly a year of competition, judges declared Team Cambodia the winner of the Ballard Center’s Y-Prize Newborn Challenge, awarding $50,000 to a team of BYU students who presented the strongest business plan to improve and market a BYU-engineered, low-cost infant ventilator for hospitals in developing countries.